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  • Hector Amezcua / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    The Kings’ Rudy Gay (8), who scored a season-high 32 points, drives against the Trail Blazers’ Wesley Matthews. Sacramento (11-22) recorded a season high in points.

  • Hector Amezcua / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    The Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins exchanges greetings with fans after the game at Sleep Train Arena. He finished with 35 points and 13 rebounds.

  • Hector Amezcua / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    Kings coach Michael Malone reacts after calling a timeout in the first half. He was pleased with his team’s defense.

Kings hang on to beat Trail Blazers

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 - 6:06 pm

Even Michael Malone, a coach who prides himself on defense, had to chuckle at the statement.

His Kings had just given up 119 points, including a season-high 46 in the fourth quarter.

Portland point guard Damian Lillard torched the Kings for 26 of his career-high 41 points in the fourth quarter.

But Malone was proud of how the Kings played defense in a 123-119 win over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena.

“Yes, they scored 119, but I felt we defended at a fairly high level,” Malone said. “It’s kind of funny saying that.”

The Kings scored 43 fourth-quarter points, their season high for a quarter, to fend off the Trail Blazers, who trailed 102-83 with 7:54 to play.

Sacramento (11-22) took control by holding Portland to 13 points in the third quarter, pleasing Malone.

“I’m going concentrate on the 13 points we gave up in the third quarter,” Malone said. “I’m going to focus on the 43 percent (shooting) that we held that team to.”

It took DeMarcus Cousins matching his season high with 35 points and Rudy Gay scoring a season-high 32 points before fouling out for the Kings to overcome Lillard, who made 7 of 11 shots in the fourth quarter, including 5 of 8 3-pointers.

“I don’t ever want to be in that situation with the ball in Damian Lillard’s hand,” Cousins said. “I’m glad we got the win, but that was a scary game.”

The Kings (11-22) also needed a season high in points to prevail.

Isaiah Thomas added 22 points, eight assists and matched his season high with seven rebounds for the Kings, who scored a season high.

The Kings had a players-only meeting Sunday, and Malone said before tipoff he would assess the meeting’s success after the game.

“Before we came on the floor tonight, my only message for them was together,” Malone said. “Offense, defense, everything we do tonight is together. There’s no finger-pointing, there’s no blaming, there’s no dropping heads.”

Malone said although he was happy with the win after consecutive losses, the Kings need to improve at closing games.

The Kings gave up six offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and missed eight of their 27 free throws, which helped Portland (26-9) hang around.

The Kings also changed their starting lineup, starting Marcus Thornton in place of rookie Ben McLemore at shooting guard.

“This is a not a demotion for Ben McLemore,” Malone said. “This is not us losing confidence or faith in him. Ben’s been struggling and I wanted to put him in a position where maybe he could have more success coming off the bench.”

Thornton had only three points but grabbed eight rebounds and had a steal and a blocked shot. McLemore had two points and two assists.

The Kings’ previous two losses on the five-game homestand were to teams below .500. Overall, their last three victories have come against teams with winning records.

Cousins joked the Kings have a solution for that when they host Orlando, which has the second-worst record in the NBA, on Friday.

“We decided we won’t be playing Orlando. We’ll be playing (Western Conference-leading) OKC,” Cousins said. “That’s the mindset we’ll be going in with.”

Read more articles by Jason Jones



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